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Bio-films
 
"Bio-film"  - click here for the complete bio-film article

The more we deal with swimming pools and pool problems, the more we realize that we're dealing with or treating symptoms rather than the root cause of the cloudy water, algae, scale build up, etc.

 biofilm build up in pipeAs noted in other articles, there are a plethora of reasons for cloudy water from poor water chemistry to poor circulation to improper cleaning habits to environmental causes. And typically, these causes combine to create the problem.

As we look for the root cause, we see more and more that there are real "problems" that are often undetected.

If you think your pool water is clean and sanitary just because it looks clear, think again. Yes, you may have shocked the water and added algaecide and even maintained a good chlorine, bromine biguanide (Soft Swim or Baquacil) level, but you've only controlled about 1% of the bacteria in your swimming pool! That's right, just 1%. The other 99% is on every pool surface that you can or can not see. And most of those places are virtually impossible to reach. What now?

First, what is a biofilm? A biofilm is a film or large quantity of bacteria that is living in and as a vast colony in the microscopic world. In the "big" world, you could call a coral reef a "biofilm." A biofilm is self-perpetuating and difficult to remove. Worst of all, biofilm love virtually any surface, especially wet or damp. But beware, even after drying out, the biofilm will not necessarily be dead but simply dormant. Did we mention that biofilms are relatively resistant to chlorine, bromine or other sanitizers?

Second, how do biofilms form? As just mentioned, biofilms form on any surface. In your pool that means the liner or the pool walls, bottom, ladder rails, skimmer baskets, ladder treads, filter tank bodies, pump bodies and impellers, directional returns (eyeballs), heater plumbing, and especially the piping. There is a 5 steps process as to the formation of biofilms: Attachment, Colonization, Protection, Growth, and finally what I call Distribution.

Attachment is just that; the bacteria attaches to the surface. It wants a place to call home and grow. Bacteria want to be in relationships, so that find a nice surface to settle down and join up with a few of their closest friends.

After attaching to the pool surface with their friends, Colonization takes place as bacteria multiply and divide, growing in number. According to studies, it is at this crucial point that this attachment is "irreversible." The bacteria colony is there to stay unless purposefully removed. This stage is typically accomplished in a matter of minutes or hours at most.

In the Protection stage, the bacteria colony or biofilm begins protecting itself against invasion. Invasion from environmental factors, "lethal" chemicals (such as chlorine or bromine), predators, anything that want to destroy it. In technical terms, the bacteria begins to excrete a protective coating called an "exopolysaccharide" film. The film is sticky or slimy and very hearty. Now the biofilm is ready to experience explosive growth.

Growth of biofilms is like a coral reef, the biofilm gets bigger and tougher. Super colonies of biofilm are actually absorbing certain chemicals that were meant to destroy them.

Now we come full circle to Distribution where these broken parts begin to attach to other surfaces or different parts of the same surface. And the cycle begins anew.

chlorine resistant biofilm colonyBy the way, biofilms are everywhere. Pools, spas, bathrooms, kitchens, the funky look to your patio furniture, on your teeth (plaque is a biofilm), wherever there is a surface that can be damp.

What to do? Resistant to chlorine or bromine. Bonds with biguanides. Ionizers have no effect. You have to remove it. But how?

Learn how to remove bio-films here.

 

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